Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

NBA on MLK Day 2021: Atlanta Hawks earn their letters with win over Minnesota Timberwolves in uniforms honouring MLK

It's a yearly tradition for the Atlanta Hawks to host a matinee game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as Atlanta, GA, being the birthplace of the Civil Rights leader. In fact, the Hawks are one of two teams that annually host a home game on MLK Day, with the other being the Memphis Grizzlies, the city where Dr. King was assassinated fighting for social justice.

But this particular MLK Day game felt bigger than usual for Atlanta, which debuted its new MLK City Edition uniforms and court for the first time in their matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The uniforms read "MLK" across the chest with a handful of little details that pay tribute to King, while the court's centrepiece donned a stained-glass Hawks logo representative of the activist's preaching done in churches during the Civil Rights Movement.

You can read more about the details of the uniform, court and history behind the Hawks and Grizzlies playing at home on MLK Day in the most recent edition of Cloth Talk from me and Gilbert McGregor.

"For us to be the team that wears [those] three letters on a chest, it was going to mean a lot to us," All-Star guard Trae Young told The Undefeated's Marc Spears. "Honoring him even more, I think it's going to be even more special to the city and to our team."

Star forward John Collins echoed his teammate's honour to wear the special uniforms on a special day, telling The Undefeated's Spears, "I feel like, for me, it just gives me a little bit of an edge, a little bit more of a chip to play harder, and prove to the city of Atlanta that we earned these letters as we've been pushing so hard to tell our fans."

With the added motivation behind the new uniforms and new court, representing Dr. King on his holiday, the Hawks came out and took care of business, defeating the Timberwolves 108-97.

MORE: Honouring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Young's early-season shooting struggles continued in this one, as he went 3-for-8 from the field, but he still stuffed the stat sheet for a near-triple-double of 20 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds. Shooting 12-for-13 from the free throw line powered his scoring total, but his highlight of the day was burying a signature 3-pointer from a few steps over halfcourt - this time, bearing more meaning with as his heels were on the stained-glass Hawks logo.

It wasn't your typical Trae Young show, though, as several Atlanta players chipped in to help pick up a much-needed victory. De'Andre Hunter led the way with 25 points, Clint Capela posted a monster double-double of 23 points and 15 rebounds, Kevin Huerter filled it up with 17 points, eight assists, six boards and four steals and John Collins added 15 points, seven boards, four blocks and one freakishly athletic alley-oop finish.

Atlanta only got eight points from its bench, but the starting five had no problem carrying the load to outlast D'Angelo Russell's 31-point outing for Minnesota. With the win, the Hawks stand in at 6-7 on the season, tied for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

While they might be under .500 on the year, they're 1-0 donning their new MLK jerseys.

"It means a lot," Young told the media after the win. "It means a lot to play on MLK Day, just knowing the history behind what he stood for, what he's done for our country. It means a lot. Especially playing here in Atlanta, it means a bit more to us for sure."

To represent Dr. King on his holiday, in his hometown, with his letters across their chest, playing on a court with several dedications to one of the most inspirational and influential people in world history, it was a special day at State Farm Arena.

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